Brandy’s Piano Bar makes you feel like nothing can get you down over the next day or two.
This unassuming hangout is tucked away in a 6-story apartment building on a nondescript block in the East 80s. It’s surrounded by other 4-, 5- and 6-story walk-up apartment buildings. A bridal shop, dry cleaner, barber shop and small pub can be found nearby.
No attitude. No frills. Not fancy. Not a big space. Brandy’s Piano Bar has a dark interior with a dark bar and dark tables and dark chairs and lights with dark sconces dating back to the 1950s. There’s an upright piano with the bench pushed up against the wall. Hanging on some panels is artwork created by a customer long ago, instead of paying the bills.
Brandy’s Piano Bar might not sound like the kind of place that attracts big crowds, but if someone’s planning to wander in on a Friday or Saturday night, the chance of getting a table for 2 doesn’t exist. Everyone, including the professional performers and patrons, is greeted with a line that snakes out the door and winds its way down the block.
Cure for an ordinary day
The staff at Brandy’s Piano Bar creates an experience that makes it possible for you to forget everything that bothered you during the day. It’s the perfect cure to a long day of rushing around, ushering young kids home from after-school games and helping them with their homework, making a quick stop into the dry cleaner minutes before it closes to pick up that stained shirt or top, dragging yourself up the subway stairs after a long day at work, finishing that important work-project that might help you get that promotion.
The stress will melt. That pulsing headache will turn into a feeling of cascading water from the top of your head, down its sides, below your ears and to the neck’s nape. Muscles that feel like they’ve been turned into twisted pretzels will unwind.
We stopped in on a Wednesday night when Elliott Roth, Jennifer Pace and Justin Lopez were performing and working. Justin worked behind the bar, Jennifer served drinks and Elliott played the upright piano. Each took a turn singing a couple sets or more.
Big personalities with big voices
They have big personalities, bigger voices and an even bigger array of song-lists. Cheerful pop and moody crooning and gentle rock and reflective folk and soulful blues and upbeat jazz.
Elliot, the piano man, is at the center of it all, playing through the night and performing every single hand-written request from the crowd. The son of a jazz-drummer father, Elliott’s experience dates back to when he was 13 years old and playing at the Pittsburgh Hilton.
As the waitress and performer, Jennifer sings and glides through Brandy’s creating levity throughout the night, inviting the audience to sing along, and drawing laughs from the crowd. She, too, comes from a musical family and learned from her jazz-musician Dad.
Mixing drinks and vocals at Brandy’s Piano Bar
The bartender and performer, Justin is the anchor, mixing drinks and vocals with Elliott, Jennifer and the crowd. Occasionally, ever high-spirited, Justin gives out a loud shout from behind the bar.
The three of them turn the dark, small, sleepy space into a bright, vibrant, intimate party. They’re warm and accepting and supportive and authentic and spontaneous and creative and fun. And very talented.
Could be Billy Joel or the next Billy Joel
The crowd gets wrapped up their lively environment. They sway along to their singing. They laugh along with them. They sing along with them. Someone gets up and sings a song while Elliott plays the piano. There’s always a chance the next Billy Joel might be found signing at Brandy’s, just as he did a while back.
Jim Luzar, the Piano Bar’s co-owner, wouldn’t have it any other way as he says his staff “is Brandy’s biggest asset”.
Having a party
And he knows what he wants them to do. “We’re having a party. I want them to create a party atmosphere.” The best way for that to happen, Jim says, is to “give them room to be creative”.
his staff ‘is Brandy’s biggest asset.’
Like a proud Dad, Jim’s in awe of the performers and proud of them at the same time, practically shouting “these kids are amazing” and a few of his performers “kill” the songs.
When we looked at our watches and realized we had to force ourselves to leave so we can start the next day at a reasonable hour, Jennifer gave us a big hug. We gave her one right back.
Brandy’s Piano Bar
235 East 84th Street
Happy Hour: 4pm-8pm
Live Music: 9:30pm – 3am
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